Category Archives: Communities

Are You Ready for a Federal Grant?

Receiving a federal grant can be a great way to accelerate your impact. There are many positive attributes in applying for and receiving a federal grant. Federal grants tend to be for larger amounts and are often multi-year funding to name a few. However, federal grant applications are complex and not easy to navigate.

We have successfully helped several organizations apply for and receive multi-million dollar federal grants. These grants have really helped to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure, expand their reach, and impact more individuals. There are some times, however, that we recommend a client not pursue a federal grant opportunity.

Before you invest the time and energy with a federal grant application, make sure these four elements are in place to determine if your organization is ready for a federal grant:grant ready blog


1. Compelling Need

Federal grants are very competitive. When they are national, you can be competing with hundreds of proposals. Nearly every federal grant application will begin with a “Need Section” where the applicant is asked to explain the need for this grant funding and support. One of the ways to stand out is to make sure your geographical community and target population fit the profile of need. Then you will want to pull from various public data sources, using citations, to make the case. Depending on the proposal, we might also include some relevant research and citations  that back up the need and proposed intervention (Check out this blog for our go to data sources!). Treat the writing of this section more like an academic college paper.

2. Program Design

When organizations are ready to apply for a federal grant, they need to have a strong design of their program. Many federal agencies are promoting “research-based” and “evidence-based” programs and services (See this blog for more insight!). If your program does not meet those thresholds, which is not always a requirement, then work to make the case for the program’s rigor and (hopefully) close alignment to evidence-based programs and elements of evidence-based programs.

3. Program Impact

There is an overall trend in grant making where more and more funders are wanting to invest their resources in organizations with sound data and results. They want to see the outcomes and solid data to backup your impact. Make sure your program has outcomes and not just outputs (See this blog for some help with outcomes!). If you are a new program or proposing a new intervention, then it is more difficult since you most likely haven’t proven yourself. This is where having a strong, close alignment to an evidence-based program model is helpful and may serve as a proxy for your impact.

4. Fiscal System and Accountinggrants-gov-logo-lg


Last but certainly not least, your organization needs to have strong fiscal controls in place to account for your federal grant dollars. You never know when the federal government will request an audit of your grant funding, so you want to have good systems in place to be able to account for those specific funds. We had one client go through an audit due to some concerning issues with their federal program officer (not anything they were doing wrong), and it was quite laborious and time consuming since this was their first federal grant. They didn’t have all of the separate accounting systems in place. Make sure you are ready to track, monitor and account for your federal funding.

If your organization can check all four boxes, then it may be time for you to consider a federal grant opportunity that could propel your impact and reach forward. If your organization can’t check all of the boxes yet, then you may need some support to help you get ready. The good news is we can help you in either scenario. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation and see how federal grants may be a good fit for your organization!

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5 Ways to Strengthen Your Internship Program

As a college student, I believe it is important to gain valuable experience in the workforce. My internship at Transform Consulting Group (TCG) has wrapped up, and I feel better prepared for graduation because  of this summer experience. I am grateful for companies like TCG who provide opportunities to interns (like myself) to build our skills, network with other professionals and strengthen our resumes.

I understand that hiring interns can be a gamble for organizations. You invest time and resources into someone who is often a college student, has little experience and is still sharpening their skillset. While interns do make more work, there are some benefits for hosting an intern:

  • Build your talent pipeline: An internship program is a great recruiting tool and can help you create an ongoing pipeline for your workforce.
  • Increase productivity: There is extra time needed on the front-end of an internship program to get the intern ready to dive into the work. However, once you have done the proper training, it can be nice to have extra hands on deck for projects.Group 4
  • Save money: Interns can be a low cost (TCG pays their interns!) resource for your organization while still being highly motivated workers.
  • Build leadership development opportunities: Having an intern can be a great way to encourage leadership growth among your team by assigning different (maybe even unlikely) employees to supervise an intern.

Now that I have sold you on the benefits of having interns, there are certain things that organizations can do to make it a meaningful experience for everyone! Here are 5 ways to help strengthen your internship programs:

1. Develop an in-depth orientation

Your intern has (hopefully) already studied the company prior to their first day, but it’s important to spend time catching them up to speed on who you are and the work your organization does in the community. You want them to feel confident right away, and it equips them to accurately explain your organization’s work when they share their experiences with fellow students, professors, and future employers.

On day one of my internship, I had a complete employee onboarding. I received collateral materials that tell the story of TCG, and had an opportunity to ask questions about the company.

thumb_IMG_0015_10242. Treat the intern as a real employee

It benefits both the intern and your organization if you provide them with real-world tasks and tangible projects. It is important to remember that even if they will be an employee for a short period of time, their work will still have an impact on the organization. Give your intern opportunities to contribute and walk away from the experience with work they can add to their portfolios. 

3. Schedule regular check-ins

Not only is an internship a great way for a young professional to gain work experience, but it can be a way for them to learn from other professionals in your organization. Allow for times of discussion, share your story, and be transparent about lessons you learned along the way in your career.

4. Practice patience

Every organization has a different way of doing things.  It takes time for any new employee to understand the culture and work environment at a new organization. Be patient with your interns as they learn the ins and outs of your organization and how they can contribute. More than likely it will take them longer to complete a task, and there will probably be some additional reviews involved.

5. Provide time for networking

Along with connecting interns within your organization (if you have more than one), it is also beneficial to allow for opportunities to build their network outside of your walls.

I was able to enjoy social events like Rotary meetings, educational conferences, and networking specific events with other local interns. To make the most of time out of the office, be intentional about scheduling time to debrief.

Internships are a critical step in a young professional’s learning and a company’s talent pipeline. Overall, my experience at TCG as a marketing intern provided opportunities to strengthen my skills and abilities, learn more about the type of work I want to do in the future, and gave me practical experiences that I can share in my portfolio as I begin the job search. It’s the type of experience I hope my fellow classmates are able to find!

Learn more about the team and culture at TCG here, and stay posted on any job opportunities here.

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Your Project Is Feasible. Now How Do You Implement It?

You completed a feasibility study and found out that your project is feasible! Now it’s time for the work of actually implementing your project or new program. What are your next steps?

Your implementation plan will include 4 focus areas: program design, staff, communications/ marketing, and budget. Here are some specific action items to get you on your way to full implementation!

Program Design

A well-designed program will enable you to have the greatest possible impact. Your feasibility study helped you make sure that the elements of your program are informed by the outcomes you want to achieve. Now it’s time to purchase the necessary materials, including the curriculum, as well as necessary office and program supplies.

You will also want to have a method of evaluation in place from the start. You can set this up internally or hire an external evaluator. The evaluation process will help you adjust to changing needs and improve upon your practices. Decide on the process you will use, purchase a database if necessary, and write standard operating procedures for your staff.

Staff

You will likely be looking to hire and train new staff in order to fully implement your program. For this, you can rely in part on the information in your feasibility study. In addition, use what you and your leadership team have done in the past when hiring new staff.

Your feasibility study will help you determine how many staff to hire in your first year. During the first year, you will still be in the process of ramping up to full capacity. Then, determine how many staff are needed once you are operating your fully developed program. You might also work on partnerships with local higher education institutions, workforce boards, and other critical groups to support staffing your new program.

Communications and Marketing

You started developing partnerships with key stakeholders when you engaged them during your feasibility study. Continue to keep these partners informed and engaged as you make progress! During project implementation, you may want to form relationships with additional partners as well. These partnerships are an essential part of your overarching communications and marketing plan.

marketing-toolkitYour marketing strategies will be important as you build your program, begin program enrollment, and communicate its value to your prospective clients and the broader community. Your goals are to attract your target clients to your program, build community buy-in, and increase awareness of prospective donors of the positive impact of your program.

Start using the marketing tactics and timeline you identified in your feasibility study. Create a website, or add onto your existing website with information specific to this project. Send a press release to local media to announce your program launch. Create social media pages for your new program, or add the new information to your existing pages.

Budget

Use the information in your feasibility study to put together a detailed start-up budget. Remember to account for all your projected initial costs. Then, create a budget for each of your first 3 years of operation. For your first year, you will likely not build out your full model. To inform your year-one budget, determine how many clients it is feasible to serve in that first year before you have built up your program’s capacity. When filling in your budget for your second year, account for increases in revenue and expenses for operating at full capacity. As you look to year three, quantify projected changes you expect to see after two years of operation.

jay-county-feasibility-studyYou will set yourself up for success by budgeting for start-up expenses, as well as the changes you will see in the initial years of operation. As you identify the amount of revenue needed to implement your program, create a fund development action plan to secure sustainable funding.

We recently completed a feasibility study for early learning stakeholders in Jay County. Now they are sharing the study results with a broader array of partners. Then, they will determine how to get from where they are now to full program implementation. If you’re interested in completing a feasibility study or taking the the next step toward program implementation, we’d love to help! Contact us today!

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3 Strategic Plan Tools to Create

Congratulations! You have journeyed through the 4 steps of our Strategic Planning Process and you’re ready for the final step: Create. (We covered step 1, step 2, and step 3 in previous blogs).

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The goal of a strategic plan is to develop timely, relevant and action-oriented plans for the future of your organization. Once you have a clear direction, it is time to make sense of the information and package it in a way that is meaningful and possible to implement.  

At TCG, we believe a strategic plan has little value if it is a report that sits on your shelf, never to be seen again. We don’t create long strategic plan reports that you can’t use. We want you to use it, share it and review it on a regular basis.

When working with clients, we recommend and create 3 different strategic plan tools:

1. One-page strategic plan – This is a one-page summary of your goals and top strategies. This tool can be shared externally with partners, funders, and other key stakeholders as well as internally with staff.

When creating a strategic plan for the Wabash County Early Childhood Education Committee, we wanted a one-page overview that highlighted the following key elements:Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.33 PM

a. Stakeholders involved (especially since this is a collective impact, multi-sector plan)

b. Goals

c. Strategies

d. Outcomes

Each one-pager for the strategic plan that we create is unique to the client but essentially covers their top goals and strategies.

2. Strategic plan report – This report explains the process of how the strategic plan was completed, the information that was collected, and more details about the goals and strategies. This is typically an internal document that is shared with staff and the board to use when reflecting on the process. It’s especially helpful to document this information for when there are leadership transitions with the staff and board.

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.03.53 PM

3. Implementation plan – Too often we find that organizations get stuck with figuring out how to take the big picture elements in the strategic plan and make them operational. We create an “implementation plan” to unpack the strategic plan into actionable steps for staff, committees and the board. The main audience for the implementation plan is staff, board and committee members who are most likely responsible for implementation.  Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 2.04.09 PM


This could be set up like a calendar or a chart that describes who is responsible for each step. We also love using Tableau to create a strategic plan dashboard to track and monitor action items and milestones. The point is that we want all parties involved to have a clear understanding of the timeline, so that they can put the plan in motion.

Is your organization ready to jump into a strategic planning process? Learn more about our strategic planning services here. Contact us today, and we’d love to chat about how our team can meet your needs.

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Marketing 101: 6 Places to List Your Organization Online

At Transform Consulting Group, we know how important it is to market your organization within the online world. Marketing 101- 6 Places to List Your Organization Online
That’s why we have so many blogs in our
Marketing 101 series dedicated to your online presence (here and here).  

There are many online directories to look through. It can be confusing to determine which search engines to use.  We know your time is valuable, so we created a list with our top six go-to directories, starting with the most popular, that you can use to promote your work!

6 Places to List Your Organization Online

1. Google my Business

You have probably heard of or even used Google my Business. Google my business is free and is the “monster” of all search engines. Google logs an average of 7.8 billion searches per day – directing traffic to specific business pages. They have become the prime example of how search engines can help any company become successful.

2. Bing Places for Business

This is a Microsoft product, which means that Bing is the default search engine for most Windows desktop and tablet versions. It allows anyone to add multiple business locations, photos, videos, and more. Bing has an easy, fast, and free registration for anyone to use and add their business.

3. Yahoo Local Listing

Yahoo’s service draws millions of searches every day. It allows anyone to post a basic listing for free. You can choose to pay a minimal free to add more detail and photos within your organization description (but we have had success with the free version!). There is a smaller fee in order to add and more description and a larger fee in if you want your organization to be listed in more than 40 directories. The basic listing is just as sufficient because the most important thing is getting the name out there for the public to see.

4. Yelp

Yelp is one of the best, free engines for honest consumer reviews. Small businesses might not think to use Yelp because it is popular for restaurants and hotels, but it is also a great source for advertising small nonprofits. Yelp stands out from the others because it allows organizations to connect with their clients and/or stakeholders and send them messages for more in depth advertising. They have a unique reporting tool to gain reviews of the best business trends.

5. MerchantCircle

MerchantCircle is a free network that focuses on small business connecting with local customers and other small businesses in the same area. Users can boost their listings, post their own blogs, and take advantage of other marketing tools aimed at making their business stronger.

6. Yellow Pages

Yes, it is true, the Yellow Pages are still an efficient way to advertise a business. It has become a well-organized, online version of the classic search guide. Along with marketing, TCG appreciates good data that can help make a company stronger. Yellow Pages has become the best network that offers detailed ad performance data. The downside to yellow pages, is the fee. The fee can become high depending on the size of the advertisement. This would be something to consider when advertising a business through Yellow Pages. Learn more about the price breakdown here

Not only is it important to have your organization listed, but what information you include in your profile is vital! Make sure to fill in all fields with updated information about your business, so that it is accurate and easy for consumers to learn more about your organization.

At TCG, we’re excited about the causes you support and the work you do in your communities. Can we help you position your organization better online? Contact us today to learn more!

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3 Steps to Establish Clear Outcomes

Evaluation is key in determining if your program is making the desired impact. While critical, evaluation can be an overwhelming and intimidating process for organizations. We have worked with several clients to help them embark on the journey of evaluating their program(s). At Transform Consulting Group, we follow a four-step evaluation process. The first step of establishing clear outcomes can be one of the most difficult. You know what your mission is and you know your vision for a better community, but how do these translate into measurable outcomes?

4 eval steps

 

1. Establish clear outcomes

2.  Create or modify data tools and system

3. Analyze the data

4. Use data to make informed decisions

 

Outputs vs. Outcomes

When determining outcomes, the conversation usually starts with program outputs. Outputs are what your program produces: activities, services and participants. Tracking, analyzing and reporting your program outputs is a valuable way of displaying an organization’s work! For example, let’s say an after-school tutoring program served 650 students during the 2017-2018 school year. You could further break that number down by age and frequency of services:

Age group Session Frequency Number of participants Total number of sessions provided
3rd-5th grades Weekly for 10 weeks 320 320×10=3,200
6th-8th grades Weekly for 15 weeks 330 330×15=4,950
Total tutoring sessions provided= 8,150

With a few simple calculations, we have a powerful representation of the work this tutoring team has accomplished! However, outputs alone don’t display programmatic impact.

Outcomes go one more step in showing impact. Outcomes are the changes in knowledge or behavior that you want your clients to experience as a result of your program. They are the “so what” of your services and activities. There are three levels of outcomes that you want to set and measure:

  1. Short-term: What changes in knowledge, attitude or behavior do you want to see in your clients by the time they complete your program or service?
  2. Intermediate: What changes do you want to see in client knowledge, attitude or behavior 6 months-12 months following program completion?
  3. Long-term: What changes do you want to see in client knowledge, attitude or behavior 1+ years after program completion?

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We recently worked with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD) to develop short-term, intermediate and long-term outcomes. They are focused on helping get more students of color to and through postsecondary education. Here are three steps that we used to help them establish clear outcomes that assess the impact of their organization.

1. Align to Organizational Mission and Purpose

When you set outcomes, you want to make sure that they align with your organizational mission and benchmarks. CLD’s programming and organizational benchmarks are centered around five principles for success: character development, educational excellence, leadership effectiveness, community service, and career achievement. We helped them establish several outcomes that aligned with their programs, missions, and key principles. 

2. Review Funder’s Priorities 

When receiving grant funding or large donations, organizations often make commitments about what they will accomplish with those funds. Therefore, you want to make sure that future outcomes still align with your current funding priorities and commitments. We worked with CLD to make sure that their many outcomes aligned with the commitments they had made with their current funders.

3. Develop SMART Outcomes

When working with clients to develop outcomes, we follow the “SMART” rubric. We plan to write a full blog to go more in-depth about the SMART rubric, but for now the main takeaway is that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

One of CLD’s long-term desired outcomes is for 75% of their participants to earn a bachelor’s degree or credential within six years of high school graduation. This outcome aligns perfectly with their mission and funding commitments, but is it SMART? Let’s check!

Copy of Establishing Clear Outcomes draft (2)With their clear outcomes established, CLD now has a road map of where they want their participants to go. This road map not only helps CLD stay on course, but it also helps to paint a picture of their desired impact for their funders and supporters. Now they are ready to move on to the next step of their evaluation: Creating or modifying data tools and systems!

If you’re ready to evaluate your program, but are hesitant to take the first step, contact us today!

 

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How to Reach Consensus on Your Strategic Plan

We are continuing our blog series on strategic planning by focusing on Step 3 of our 4 Step Strategic Planning Process: Facilitate Consensus. Read more about our previous strategic planning blogs in this series here, here, and here.  The main purpose of this third step is for the strategic planning team to start to reach agreement about the future direction.  

Organizations will often form strategic planning committees or task leadership teams to complete their strategic plan. This means that different types of people with various perspectives and insights will have to learn to work together on a common goal. We actually encourage collaboration and engagement in the strategic planning process and discuss it more Step 1 in this blog.

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After you have formed your planning team and gathered some critical information about the organization, your targeted clients and community you are now ready to come together to reach consensus about the future. The following five recommendations will help your team reach consensus:

  1. Issue Homework – Prepare a packet of information that summarizes all of the data and information that has been collected. Most likely there will be some important information that would be helpful for the group to read in advance of coming together. We like to package that information into a “pre-read” report or slide deck presentation (see more here).
  2.  Host Planning Sessions – Set aside time for the planning team to come back together once all of the information has been gathered. Depending on your planning team’s availability, this may need to be broken out into a couple of sessions.
  3.  Facilitate Group Discussion – If your budget allows, it is very helpful to have a consultant (ahem, TCG!) facilitate your planning discussions. This way all members of your team will be able to engage in the discussion. They are also equipped with adult learning strategies and can design a highly engaging and interactive process for your team.

wabash strategic plan4.  Focus on the “What” First – We often see many planning team members who want to jump into the strategies and problem-solve the needs/ gaps identified. The first step in consensus building is to reach agreement on the “What” you want to accomplish. We call this setting your big goals and top areas of focus. We also try to limit our clients to 3-5 big goals/ focus areas. Once you have this set, then you can get into the “How” you will accomplish your goals through strategies.

5. Take the Temperature – As you are moving through this process, it is important to check in with your planning team at these meetings and maybe even afterwards. You want your planning team to be confident in the agreements that have been made and to not have any ill feelings of team members. While not everyone may get what they think is important, everyone should be in collective agreement about the plan. During these planning sessions, your consultant or team lead should check the non-verbal and verbal cues of team members throughout the process and respond as needed.

By the end of step 3, facilitating consensus, your team should feel excitement and enthusiasm about the possibilities for the future and the plan! If not, that might be indicator that the consensus is not there with the whole group. In that case, you may need to come back together and have an honest discussion.

A strategic plan is not something to take lightly or go through the motions. It can set the path for the future of an organization and help bring about transformational change. When you take the time and effort to follow these five recommendations, your organization will be on its way.

If you are ready to start your strategic plan, contact us. We would love to support organization’s strategic planning needs.

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Strategic Planning Process: Step 2

In this past blog we talked about the 4 Steps of Strategic Planning that we follow. A quick recap of the 4 steps are: Collaborate, Assess, Facilitate and Create. A few weeks ago we shared more about Step 1 in that process: “Collaborate”. Today we are continuing our blog series on strategic planning by focusing on Step 2 in the process: “Assess”.

Assess Highlighted

 

With many of our clients and partners, we find that they immediately want to jump to Steps 3 and 4 of the process, which is about goal and strategy setting. By skipping over Steps 1 and 2, organizations are missing out on a critical opportunity to get buy in and input from key stakeholders as well as embed a thoughtful review in the planning process.

We divide the assessment phase of the strategic planning process into two parts: Internal and External Assessment.

Internal Assessment

  • Organizational review: The internal assessment includes an analysis of the organization by looking at financial statements, programming, and organizational structure.  This might include summary reports of the organization and programs to determine results accomplished. You will want to look for trends, gaps and opportunities.  
  • Stakeholder feedback: We have several blogs that talk about stakeholder feedback here and here. Don’t forget to talk internally within your organization about the strategic plan by reaching out to clients (if appropriate), staff, volunteers, and board of directors.

External Assessment

  • Environmental Scan: The external assessment may include collecting information about the industry and sector that the organization operates. It might be helpful to provide a brief update about the latest research, policies and best practices that inform the work of your organization.
  • Community needs assessment: It might be helpful to complete an updated needs assessment of your community or targeted audience to ensure strong alignment with programs and needs. We have some blogs about this here and here.
  • Stakeholder feedback: Just like an internal assessment, there are some key stakeholders to reach out to for feedback and input to inform your planning process. This might include current and past funders, other community partners, and the public.

While completing a new strategic plan for Healthy Families Indiana, we included both an internal and an external assessment. We gathered key data points about the organization to bring to the planning team for review and discussion. We also completed an organizational history timeline exercise to help bring everyone together about the key milestones accomplished over the life of the program in the state. We sought feedback from various stakeholders within the organization, which included staff at different levels (direct service staff, supervisors and program managers) and across the state.

We also sought feedback from external stakeholders by reaching out to community partners who make referrals and have shared goals. These components provided important context to inform the discussion about goals for the future.

Once we gather all of this information, it is important to do some pre- analysis and synthesis of this information before it is shared with the planning team. We do this in a couple of ways for our clients:

  1. Pre-read report – We develop a narrative report that summarizes all of the information collected in the internal and external assessment. We use graphs and tables to make it as user-friendly as possible. It’s helpful to share this report in advance of a planning meeting or retreat, so that the team can review the information before meeting.
  2. Presentation – A presentation can be a simpler way of compiling the information and sharing it with the planning team. Sometimes we create both a narrative report and a presentation that summarizes the information gathered. The slide deck presentation can be helpful to highlight some of the key findings during the assessment phase.
  3. Dashboard – We talk about creating dashboards in this blog. Basically we love dashboards and how helpful they are to display multiple data points in a user-friendly format. We love to create dashboards that summarize internal and external assessment data to share with the planning team. See this one we created for a community strategic plan.

The main purpose of the “Assess” step in the strategic planning process is to gather important information to share with your planning team, so that they are well informed and equipped to develop a plan for the future. We would love to partner with your organization in developing a strategic plan. Contact us for more information!

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Marketing 101: 6 Ways to Improve Your Website

Improve Website ImageAt Transform Consulting Group, we know your work is important. We also know your time and resources can be limited, regardless of the role you play at your organization. We work with many organizations and programs who are stretched thin working on the front lines with individuals and families to make an impact.

We understand that the behind the scenes marketing gig is rarely your top focus. We also see too many programs fail when they see marketing as a luxury instead of a necessity. The reality is, you need to market in some capacity if you want to grow your organization and continue your good work.

At TCG, we’re here to help. We want to make the process of laying your marketing foundation as easy and painless as possible. That’s why we’re continuing with our Marketing 101 blog series. We covered tips for branding here, best practices for enhancing your social media here, and this blog will unpack 6 simple ways to improve your website.

If you don’t already have a website, then set one up as soon as possible! There are two major reasons why you need even the most basic website:

  • Your clients expect it. Six out of ten consumers expect brands to provide online content about their business, and more than half go directly to the website for information.

  • You control the message. You don’t always have power over what people say about you on social media or on other platforms, but on your website, you are in charge of the narrative. This is your space for telling your organization’s story.

If you don’t have a website, check out free sites like WordPress, and get something posted as soon as possible!

If you do already have a website then you’re halfway there! Now it’s time to take things up a notch with these 6 tips:

1. Capture Attention Quickly

You don’t have much time to capture attention online. The average page visit lasts less than a minute. This Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.33.15 PMmeans you must grab the viewers’ attention quickly, and give them reasons to stay on your page. Your homepage should clearly state who you are and who you serve. You can’t necessarily give away all the information on the first page, but a visitor should be able to gain some basic understanding of your organization during that first glance.

Take a look at our TCG homepage. Without even scrolling, visitors can click on a testimonial video and see our mission statement front and center.

2. Use Active Voice

Whenever possible, use active voice when writing the narrative on your website. Passive sentences end up being wordy and vague. Active voice encourages active readers. You want readers who are engaged and who, hopefully, act! Using active voice also helps increase your SEO (search engine optimization – see more in tip #5).

3. Be Personal

People want to know you, like you and trust you before they work with you. Show behind the scene glimpses of Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 4.46.36 PMwhat goes on at your organization and your culture. Use conversational language and avoid technical terms that aren’t approachable.

At TCG, we’re proud of the culture we have created, and we want to showcase it! One way we do this is by highlighting our perks on the career page. We also have individualized bios for each team member.

4. Make it Mobile Friendly

Nearly 60 percent of online searches happen from a Cell phonemobile device. What does this mean for you? Your website needs to be just as compelling whether someone visits on their desktop or cellphone.

Here are some quick tips for making your site mobile friendly. However, the biggest thing to start doing now is test it. Have your staff members pull up your company’s site on various devices (phones, iPads, laptops of different sizes, etc.) and see how it looks!

5. Improve SEO

You can take courses and spend hundreds and thousands of dollars trying to learn how to make your website searchable, or increase search engine optimization (SEO).

We won’t claim to be website experts. However, there are a few easy (and free!) tricks we’ve learned that you can start doing right now:

  • Publish Relevant Content: Quality content drives your search engine rankings. Create content that is specific to your audience. Identify keyword phrases for each page by thinking through how your readers might search for that specific page.
  • Update Content Regularly: Search engines like to see regularly updated content. This shows your site is relevant and your organization will pop up higher in searches.

6. Track Web Traffic

As with any marketing strategy, spend time assessing if your efforts are working! We use Google Analytics to track monthly data on our website. The setup for Google Analytics is free, but it looks a little different depending on your website host. Here is a tutorial to get started.

Once this is set up on your page, there is SO much information you can collect. Some major data you may want to track includes the following:

  • How many people visit your website daily?
  • How many new or returning visitors come to your site?
  • How many pages are people looking at when they visit your site?
  • How long do visitors stay?
  • What cities are your visitors from?
  • How are your visitors finding you (on social media, organic searches, etc.)?

You can also show side-by-side comparisons of different months or weeks to gain a good understanding of if you’re heading in the right direction.  This is a great method for tracking progress and areas to improve!

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At TCG, we want to help you accelerate your impact – whether that’s with your marketing efforts or through our other services. Contact us today and learn more!

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Marketing 101: 5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media

At Transform Consulting Group, we see many organizations launch services and programs in response to an obvious need in the community or a gap to address. Your organization is getting into your work, because you have a passion for a cause. Too often nonprofits spend their time on making their programs and services amazing and not as much time on their marketing efforts.Social Media Image

We don’t expect you to be a marketing genius. We want to equip you with simple tools, so that you can do what you do best and it starts with your marketing.

We launched our Marketing 101 series with 5 Tips for Building Your Brand. In this blog we are focusing on your social media presence and will provide simple tips you can immediately implement with little time, budget or resources.

First, you may be wondering why invest time in social media? Social media is continuing to grow everyday – with over 69% of adults now using some sort of social media platform. It is a simple, low-cost way to promote your organization.

There are numerous social media platforms you can decide to utilize for your nonprofit. We understand your time is limited and recommend choosing 1 or 2 social media platforms to get started. There is no reason to spend time on every available social media site and stretch yourself too thin. By choosing 1 or 2 platforms, you can spend the necessary time making sure your efforts get the biggest bang.

There is a little science to choosing what social media platform to invest in, and it really depends on your audience and message. However, we suggest at least starting with Facebook. Facebook is the largest platform, with over 1 billion users daily. Other options to consider are Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and the list goes on. Regardless of your chosen platform, these best practices can be implemented!

5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media

  1. Post Regularly

Your followers need to hear from you on a consistent basis. Your posting schedule will vary depending on your social media platform. On Facebook, you should post at least one time a day. Twitter operates at a much faster pace and if you truly want your content viewed then you will need to post 3-5 times a day. On sites like LinkedIn, you may find that posting 3-5 times a week is most appropriate for your audience.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 3.47.28 PMThis may seem daunting at first which is why we recommend scheduling your posts when possible. On Facebook for example, you can schedule as many posts as you want for free by clicking on the blue box on your wall.

There are also many tools available for scheduling posts on multiple social media sites. We use Hootsuite to schedule posts for Transform Consulting Group.

The hardest thing about posting regularly is coming up with compelling and relevant content! When crafting your content, consider posting the following:

  • Articles related to your cause to demonstrate your knowledge on the issue areas you are addressing;
  • Event information for upcoming activities within your organization or community;
  • Data and statistics that highlight your impact and successes;
  • Pictures of your work in action (pending client approval/permission;
  • Content shared by partners or other organizations in your network.

  1. Utilize free analytics tools

On most social media platforms, there are built in analytics tools you can use for free. (Facebook calls these tools “Insights” and you’ll find the tab in the top banner. LinkedIn and Twitter have tabs called “Analytics”).

These tools are only useful if you know what data to track. Here is an example of the data we monitor on Facebook on our company page and for clients like the Indiana Heart Gallery:

  • Reach – This number tells you how many people are viewing your content or page. It also includes people who haven’t “followed” your page, but can see your content.
  • Post Engagement – This number shows how often people are “liking” or “sharing” your content. By scrolling to the bottom of the “Insight” page, you can see the engagement on every post and use this information to determine the types of posts your audience is interested in.
  • People (found on the left side of the screen, under “Insights”) – This tab shows basic demographic data about the people who “like” your page. Determine the gender, age, and location of your target audience. Are those the same people who are viewing your content? If not, you may need to change up the things you are posting to attract the demographic you want to engage.
  • When Your Fans are Online (click on “Insights” and “Posts” on the left side of the screen) – This data will show you what days of the week and time of day your fans are online. This is valuable information as you start scheduling posts. Use this data to determine when you should post to ensure the most eyes see your content.
  1. Use visuals

Photos and videos perform better on all social media platforms. Avoid posts that just include text, but instead upload images or videos that capture your fans’ attention. Always make sure to include a photo when posting links to articles or a page on your website.

  1. Experiment with adsScreen Shot 2018-04-11 at 3.49.17 PM

We have had good luck with Facebook Ads for as little as $10 per post for our client the Indiana Heart Gallery.

The Indiana Heart Gallery has great engagement with followers on social media, but we wanted to target individuals who don’t already know about the Heart Gallery for our major events. The advantage of utilizing ads is that your content will reach people who aren’t already engaged with your page.

Whatever platform you utilize for ads, make sure you are specific about your target audience. Most platforms allow you to choose specific demographics, location, etc. of the people you want to target. Spend time making sure your content is appealing to the same target audience you are targeting with your ad.

  1. Engage with “Fans”

Respond quickly to messages, retweet partners’ post, share content, “like” comments on your wall, etc. The more you engage, the more often your company will pop up in people’s newsfeed!

At TCG, we are passionate about helping you move your mission forward. Are you interested in partnering? Contact us today and learn more!

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